Bhandardara is around 180Kms from Mumbai and boasts of one of the most pleasing views and monsoon experience in the state. The bunch of us set off and a hired Chevrolet Tavera & a Pulsar 200 were to serve us today. Wilson dam, Mount Kalsubai (highest peak of Maharashtra), Arthur Lake and Ratangad fort are some of the tourist attractions here. In the rain, we decided to skip the trek to Kalsubai and visited the dam, waterfall and the lake. Besides these ‘touristy’ spots, what we thoroughly enjoyed was the journey to the place. The experience of passing through clouds, chilly winds, innumerous waterfalls, endless greenery and the continuous precipitation is hard to describe in words.
We started around 6:20 am, passed Thane by 7:30 and were speeding on the Nashik highway. Speeds in excess of 100kmph were later brought down thanks to the rain. We had breakfast midway somewhere after Vasind. The first thrill was the Sayhadri ghats. The ghats offer a spectacular view of the valley but today the clouds engulfed us. Driving through the clouds was quite an experience in itself. Though there is a way from Asangaon, we stayed on the NH3 until the small town of Ghoti. Any roads off this highway are usually in a bad shape. The monsoon had definitely taken a toll and it took us more than an hour to cover the last 30Kms. Though there were some really bad patches of tarmac, we never complained as the lush green & wet surroundings were an absolute treat.
One phenomenon that surprises me here are the winds. There were a couple of times when the Chevy passed through a gap in the valley and swayed violently. I freaked out everytime I saw this and braced myself as I went through the gap moments later on the bike. No exaggerations here: ride with extreme caution for the winds will try their best to blow you away; whatever be your ride. I have to admit that I underestimated the power a couple of times. There were times when I bent more than 10 degrees to counter the wind on a straight path. It took me a while to figure out the boundary between thrill and stupidity but a couple of bad judgments and last moment braking have taught lessons that ought to be lifelong. So please, slow down.. We hit the village around 10:30. Upon reaching the waterfall, tea and pakodas were ordered at a small shanty of a place.
The winner amongst my stupidity for the day featured the biggest Rapta of ‘em all. (for the definition of rapta, click here) We had encountered countless raptas on the way thanks to the rain but I’ll call this one at Arthur lake the ‘Big Daddy’ . We parked our vehicles on one end of the road as the driver was against taking the Chevy through it. However, I saw a Splendor come through. Then a Discover came through revving hard and coughing. If these measly machines can, then why not the beast? With this thought I mounted my machine and drove off after instructing Nishant to take pics of the victorious me splashing around. As soon as I reached halfway, the engine started coughing. No sooner had it hauled me to safety and it died. My compatriots who had attempted similar feats were also subjected to the same fate (another Splendor). What had happened was that the level had risen (Yes! In a matter of minutes) by a couple of inches. The groaning of the engine meant that there was plenty of water in both the muffler as well as the spark plugs. We hauled the bike to a small shed (the only sign of habitation/human activity within a couple of Kms) and tried everything. We titled the bike on the rear wheel to flush out the silencer. Opened, Cleaned and dried both the spark plugs. When nothing worked, we decided to wait. Sure enough the engine came back to life after repeated attempts of the above mentioned steps in 40 minutes. This time I decided to cross the rapta off the bike. So Punit and I pushed the bike, fought the fury of the water which threatened to wash away the bike and the two of us and got it back to the other side. Thankfully, the engine roared and we headed to Arthur lake. The ladies were dreaming of boating all this while and were left aghast as soon as we reached the spot. For waves that would put the shores of Arabian sea to shame greeted us. Again, wind was the culprit. Boating had been suspended for the day and we decided to head out for food. Needless to say, every bone was shivering. Even the ones in the car wet after the previous excursions and the chilly winds can make life tough. When we finally reached the MTDC resort at around 2pm, I discovered that my hands and feet could very well be featured in the fairness cream advertisements sans the shrinkage lines that had developed. For white would have shied away from the skin made pale by the non-stop precipitation of the last 5 hours. The highlight of the process of eating was not the food but the fact that we remained in a dry place for about an hour.
We headed back at around 4pm and stopped for coffee at a CCD between the Sayhadri ghats and Vasind. A word of caution: it is very hard to find a decent place to eat here. There are 2-3 resorts which may or may not entertain you for food and hence MTDC is often the only option. It is not a bad idea to stuff as much food from home; especially if you wish to trek to Kalsubai.
Ways to get there:
1. Hire a cab from Mumbai: We struck a decent deal for a 6-seater which turned out to be around Rs. 650 per head
2. Via Igatpuri: Take a train/ bus to Igatpuri. From Igatpuri, you could hire a cab (Rs 500) or take the state transport corporation’s hourly bus. Economical but you lose time.
3. Drive/Ride: A great drive but do ensure that the vehicle has already earned your confidence. The terrain is quite treacherous and there are hardly any support center/workshops here. Figure out the math depending on the kind of fuel guzzler you plan to take.
Places to stay:
- - The MTDC resort is the only economical option but it can be difficult to get confirmed bookings on weekends. You may need to book weeks in advance.
- - There are a couple of budget hotels in the nearby town of Igatpuri (40Kms) as well
You can try to cover a few more places in case you want to make a trip of more than 1 day:
- Nashik : The city with many prominent temples
- Shirdi: The Sai temple in Shirdi needs no introduction. The town also offers numerous places to stay depending on your budget.
- Malshejghat: A hill station with a panoramic view of mountains and valleys. Again, it is difficult to get a confirmed booking in the MTDC resort here.